Press Releases

    4 February 2004

    Secretary-General Highlights Europe’s Long-Standing Strong Support for UN, at Opening of Regional Information Centre in Brussels

    NEW YORK, 30 January (UN Headquarters) -- Following are Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s remarks at the inauguration of the Regional United Nations Information Centre for the European Union in Brussels, 30 January:

    Thank you for joining us to inaugurate the Regional United Nations Information Centre in Brussels.

    The peoples of Europe have supported the ideals and activities of the United Nations since its founding. In recent years, this has enabled us to build exemplary relations not only with the countries of Europe, but also with the institutions of the European Union.

    We are well aware that, in order to continue to enjoy your support and cooperation -- which are very important to us -- we must ensure that Europeans are well informed about what the United Nations is trying to do and that we know what Europeans expect of us.

    From now on that two-way communication will be the responsibility of this new Regional United Nations Information Centre -- or “RUNIC” for short. This inauguration puts Europe in the vanguard of major reforms of United Nations information services, which aims to use our limited resources more effectively by having regional centres, well-staffed, well-equipped, instead of spreading those resources too thinly between separate national centres of the Member States.

    Europe will be the testing-ground for this new system, and Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Information, who is here with us today, will be able to draw on the experience of RUNIC-Brussels as he proceeds to apply the reform elsewhere.

    Hassen Fodha, one of our most experienced communications professionals, is RUNIC’s first director. He will be leading a highly-skilled and multilingual team, based here at the Résidence Palace, in new offices most generously provided by the Belgian Government. It will be his job to make sure that the whole of Europe is well informed about the United Nations.  I hope the European media and civil society will soon get used to turning to Hassen and his staff for information, and indeed inspiration.

    They will of course work closely with the United Nations Office in Brussels, which handles all United Nations dealings with the European institutions, and whose director, Omar Bakhet, is also with us today. Indeed, one of RUNIC’s main tasks will be to make the cooperation between us and the European Union better known to the public.

    Finally, let me thank the Belgian Government for its generosity, and especially for the premises which it is so kindly providing free of charge. By this gesture, Belgium is once again showing its strong attachment, both to the ideals of the United Nations and to European integration.

    And let me also thank Commissioner Vittorino for being with us this morning. His presence is one more sign of the close ties that link the European Union and the United Nations.

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    * Reissued to include portions translated from French.